FAO data published as Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data is a web publishing method that focuses on data and the way that it links to other pieces of data, independent of their physical location around the world. Linked Data, in this case, essentially deals with using the web to link together data that was not previously linked, and take advantage of the potentiality of web publication. It is the equivalent for data what an HTML document is for text (the hypertext of the early days of the internet). But unlike HTML documents, linked data can be used programmatically by machines, and as such, used within web applications.
Publications as Linked Data build on a few basic web standard technologies and protocols. Primarily, URIs to name and locate entities on the web, and the HTTP protocol to exchange web content through web browsers. Secondarily, data is encoded using the web-oriented Resource Description Framework (RDF) language. At this point, data owners can exploit any other relevant data set published using the same technologies and protocols, and make connections (links) between relevant pieces of data.
Let us suppose that a data owner publishes a data set about sardine captures as linked data. The data owner then links their data to the a third party data set, for example, a reliable source of information about biological profiles of fish species. The resulting linked data may be of interest to humans, but it can also be programmatically used in applications to explore the connection between fish capture and the climate.
When Linked Data is published with an explicit open license, or when it is at least openly accessible from a network point of view (not behind an authorization check or paywall), then it is Linked Open Data. The Linked Open Data project (http://richard.cyganiak.de/2007/10/lod/) collects information about the data sets that are published in this way.
FAO, like many other large data producers (BBC, the Library of Congress, the US government, just to name just a few), has started publicizing its data as Linked Open Data. For example, the very first data set published by FAO was the multilingual thesaurus AGROVOC, available in over 20 languages and covering all subject areas related to FAO interests. A human-readable version of these connected data sets is available at the following link: http://aims.fao.org/standards/agrovoc/linked-open-data
Data.fao.org, like AGROVOC, will utilize Linked Open data techniques. The focus for data.fao.org in relation to Linked Open Data will be to connect semantic resources coming from many different sources.
Author: Caterina Caracciolo